Harkin, J.B. (1875-1954)

James B. Harkin was born in Vankleek Hill, Ontario, and worked as a journalist in Ottawa before becoming private secretary to the Minister of the Interior, Clifford Sifton (1903-05) and then Frank Oliver (1905-11). In 1908 he was charged by Oliver with the task of taking two delegates from the Vancouver South Asian community to British Honduras to look at conditions of employment there. The government was trying to promote the relocation of South Asian immigrants from British Columbia to Honduras where there was a demand for indentured labour. W.C. Hopkinson went with Harkin as interpreter, but the two delegates—one a Sikh and the other a Hindu—found the Honduras situation completely unacceptable and their compatriots in Vancouver, led by Prof. Teja Singh, angrily rejected the scheme. Harkin wrote a long report for the government. He went on to make his mark as a conservationist. When the Ministry of the Interior created a parks branch in 1911, Harkin became the Commissioner of National Parks and in his twenty-five years in that position he very effectively promoted an expanded park system that would be both accessible to the public and a preserve for wildlife.

Sources: The Canadian Encyclopedia (Edmonton: Hurtig, 1988); J.B. Harkin, The East Indians of British Columbia, A Report Regarding the Proposal to Provide Work in British Honduras for the Indigent Unemployed Among Them (Ottawa: Minister of the Interior, 1909).